Offworld trading company: Managing expectations walkthrough
19-07-2018 EDIT: this guide no longer applies to the current map of Managing Expectations. They have updated the map as they occasionally do. While the general principles are still something to learn from, the exact strategy no longer is relevant.
As a new player to Stardock’s Offworld Trading Company, I found Managing Expectations and Proof of Employment missions particularly difficult, because for the first time you are given a normal competitive environment and so your previously unoptimised / slow build orders and strategies will be severely punished. Case in point, it took me about 15-20 attempts to finish Managing Expectations (some of those being 2-3 minutes of realising how I screwed up right away, others over an hour). Yes, I got many many notices of termination.
There are a few forums threads about this level, along with some videos online, but mostly they are for an out of date version of this map or give generic advise without explaining how to beat this map in particular.
Generic advise vs. specific strategies
It’s true that learning the fundamental mechanics of the game will allow you to play effectively on any map, including Managing Expectations. However as a new player, absorbing all of the mechanics “in theory” is much harder than learning them “in practice”, so this guide is backwards for that reason. Instead of giving generic principles on the mechanics of the game, and then assuming that you, the gamer, will apply those in this scenario, I’d rather give you a specific strategy on how to beat this map and then we can extrapolate those strategies into generic principles.
Alright? Let’s go!
Which HQ to choose?
Each HQ has its strengths and weaknesses. In theory I reckon any HQ could beat any map. In this case I am going with Scientific HQ because that’s what we had to use to struggle through Proof of Employment so it may be more familiar to us.
Where to start?
Start at the far west of the map where you see dual aluminium and iron deposits. Don’t bother scanning any more than necessary – scan to the left until you’ve revealed the tiles needed. Be the first to drop your HQ Drop your HQ in the exact spot in this below picture. Once you’ve dropped the HQ immediately pause the game and keep reading this guide.
Why do the AI level up so quickly?
In your first few attempts at this map one of the burning questions may be why the AI is level 3 when you’re still struggling to get out of level 1. The reason is because the AI immediately begins mining/processing the exact materials they require to level up, instead of other materials and then selling / buying. Levelling up quickly is vitally important, because you gain more land claims and thus simply get more stuff to harvest.
So in our strategy, we will level up to level 2 before anyone else (that’s vitally critical to securing some of the key resources so we can win).
First set of three buildings (HQ level 1)
Based on the positioning of the HQ, all 3 of your first buildings are immediately adjacent to the HQ. Building like this means no ships need to carry the material to the HQ which means a steady flow of your resources instead of bursts from arriving ships (and zero fuel costs).
Build 2 X steel mills to the left of the HQ on top of iron (Scientific HQ’s speciality: buildings using resources they’re placed on directly), make sure these are both directly adjacent to each other and on iron so that they get the basic production speed bonus. Then and build 1 X metal mine on top of the tile that has medium aluminium and low iron — thus mining both of them.
Since you start out with glass, this will allow you to manufacture all of the resources necessary to level up to level 2. If you do this strategy correctly (pausing immediately after dropping the HQ and queuing the build orders while paused, so they all build simultaneously) then you will definitely be the first HQ to reach level 2.
Second set of three buildings (HQ level 2)
The next set of buildings is crucial. As soon as your HQ levels up to level 2 pause the game again.
Firstly, build a water pump on the high water to the south of the HQ. This does involve some fuel costs but it’s way worth it as in this map water becomes crazy important later on. It’s important that you are the first HQ to reach level 2 or you will probably miss the single tile with high water on the west side of the map.
Secondly, build another steel mill adjacent to your other two. Make sure they form the triangle so they get full adjacency bonuses. This one will not be on top of an iron deposit but that’s OK since we have mined iron from the first metal mine and iron quickly becomes a cheap commodity during the game.
Finally, don’t build on it (since you won’t have the money upfront), but claim the geothermal vent nearby to the east of the HQ. You can claim it by clicking on it and clicking to claim the tile, thus you take control of it before you can put a geothermal plant onto it. This will stop any other HQ from building on it.
Now, save up for that geothermal plant and sell of any surplus resources not needed to build it (iron, additional aluminium and steel). It will be your final building on this HQ level. Once you have the cash, build it.
Because an early geothermal plant generates a lot of power, this should help to clear the debt accumulated so far as it auto-sells (or at least help to manage it). Also, the price of power usually increases around HQ 2-3 as the other HQs have not yet built much power so it’s a good early business to go into.
Goon Squad on Geothermal plant
I’ve noticed an early geothermal plant often triggers the AI to launch a mutiny as it’s a high profile target, so the next important step is to get the first early Goon Squad onto the geothermal plant to capture the mutiny, if your income is good you can get the goon squad onto the geothermal plant before it’s completed building so it’s safe from the first moment it starts producing. Once you have their mutiny you can use it on a low-profile target like someone’s greenhouse farm or if power is relatively expensive you can mutiny someone’s wind turbine for some additional income.
Mutiny & Patent Lab
Scientific HQ has an advantage that patents are researched at 2 X speed. The patents themselves vary in usefulness: not all are useful or equally useful for each scenario. In this case, we have a specific patent strategy that I will outline. You can do this before going on to HQ level 3 or after level 3, if you do it after you may have more cash to fund the exercise but some patents might already be gone.
Firstly, there’s really no need to build your own patent lab. It takes up an additional tile of land when we just don’t have one, nor want to waste the resources building it. Since Scientific HQ researches patents so quickly you can get 2-3 patents done in one mutiny of a competitor’s patent lab.
So, mutiny either the first or second patent lab that your competitors build (make sure to do it quickly before they get goon squads), and blitz the following patents while in mutiny. You can focus entirely on this during the mutiny period, putting off anything else:
- Teleportation: Grab teleportation ASAP. It’s super expensive but it’s a key part of the strategy for this map, because resources are so far apart, other HQs have high fuel costs. I’ve noticed in the mid / late game fuel becomes increasingly expensive, and this compounds that by completely removing your fuel costs.
- Financial Instruments: grab this ASAP, as it gives good mid game income from the debt of your competitors (which usually revolves around $50K-$100K)
- (if you have time) grab slant drilling (you might need to do a second mutiny to get this), as this will prevent any competitors from mining the very minimal water on the map from adjacent tiles (and help you build water triangles down at your south-west spot)
- Nanotech (definitely requires second mutiny), super useful for late game recycling of land, however I beat this map without getting to this as someone else got it first.
Third set: Three buildings (HQ level 3)
Save up and get the HQ to level 3 ASAP. Now this is where the possible paths start to split out, but I’ll mention what worked for me and I think will work generally on this map.
Use the 3 land claims to build our first “triangle of profit”.
When you hover over a building to construct it, there’s a tooltip on the side that indicates the profit of that building (press and hold X on the keyboard to see all profit / loss of potential constructions as well as live buildings on the map). This is calculated in real time based on the current price of the various commodities. This piece of information is crucial when deciding which market to enter. The exact current sales price of the commodity is irrelevant, because the materials needed to manufacture it might also be expensive. Hence profit is the most important, and you can identify the profitability of building a new structure by hovering over it to see the tooltip.
To be honest, it’s most likely going to be either Food (Greenhouse farm) or Oxygen & Fuel (Electrolysis Reactor). I’d wager Electrolysis Reactor on this map, as it seemed to almost consistently become quite profitable, but it really does depend on what the other bots are doing.
Now, you can build electrolysis reactors directly on water with teleportation & slant drilling YES, but if it turns out that both food and fuel/O2 start to make a loss then you’re stuck with a land claim on water that is not as great, and if you don’t have slant drilling on this map it’s tough to finish a triangle — that’s a mistake I made as Scientific HQ a few times (hey look, we can build straight on water!) — so in this case we’re actually gonna build the electrolysis reactors next to the HQ for speed (builds quickly, delivers quickly), this also manipulates the water price substantially creating more water shortage which we will take advantage of.
So build (3 X Electrolysis Reactors or 3 X Greenhouse Farms OR something else if more profitable) immediately adjacent to your HQ in a triangle (like the steel mills).
Use the profit from those to get your HQ to level 4.
Fourth set: Four buildings (HQ level 4)
By now our single geothermal plant is not cutting it anymore and we are spending money on power, so the first building to build is a geothermal plant again. Also, by this time in the game the AI is likely too busy sabotaging / causing mutinies on other kinds of stuff so no need to rush the goon squad again.
Also, best to build another water pump (adjacent) to get more water as the price of water is probably climbing super high by now, and you may have used up some of the previously saved water from the first high water.
Then, we will start to build our second “triangle of profit” with 2/3 of the necessary buildings, this is very likely to be Greenhouse Farms if you chose Electrolysis Reactors, or vice versa (but keep an open mind for electronics, glass and chemicals at this stage, whichever is more profitable).
Also, use a bribed land claim to build an optimisation centre before we get to level 5 — as this is important going forward (you can do this at next HQ level if you want to instead). Start optimising whatever is most profitable or most costly to your production.
Don’t bother with pleasure domes or hacker arrays.
Use profits from “triangle of profits” to get to level 5.
Endgame: HQ level 5
At level 5 things become a bit more open ended. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- It’s a great idea to complete a triangle of profit of water (the slant drilling patent will help with that, and prevent your competitors from getting more water).
- Complete your second triangle of profit (food or other) — so your HQ will have three adjacent triangles (steel, electrolysis, food if you followed my order).
- You might have to buy stock in yourself before level 5 just to prevent hostile buyout. Make sure you get the lock secure.
- Get an offworld market (and then another one) to sell stuff offworld.
- Don’t spend too much energy with the black market. Protect your offworld markets and optimisation centre.
- Swap out your triangles of profit when their commodity is losing profitability. Switch to other commodities and sell to make more money.
- Keep on top of your selling, you need to keep selling to keep profits up and buy shares, fix debt and have good cashflow. (Use auto-sell by control-shift-click on the commodity, especially up at level 5 no need to stockpile anything)
- Clear out your entire debt at HQ 4 or 5. Clear it out and never go into debt again unless it’s for an auction. (control-shift-click the debt button will pay off debt from profits automatically so you stay out of debt)
- Be the first to buy other another company — this is critical, as whoever buys out first tends to keep steamrolling.
- Win the game!
Quick extra notes
- You can get a hacker array but for a new player timing the market is tough, even with the hacker array. I just used mine to short power when I was selling loads of it as it auto-sells so I don’t have to pay much attention.
- Due to the scarcity of water on this map, and its overall positioning around other resources, water plays a key role in this particular scenario, you can also use magnetic storm on the waters to the east of the map to destroy the ships and short water further (especially when you have teleportation). Slant drilling and good positioning can help you get 3 X high water from your first water claim.
- I tended to buy shares of my own stock only when I saw the buyout warning from a competitor. It’s a red percentage that sits next to their listing on the right hand side. This saves your cashflow as it’s a tough map.
- Don’t let debt get over $100K, it starts to spiral down from there.
- It seems the AI very rarely uses Mules, so they are relatively cheap. Use a mule mid-late game to pick up some silicon or carbon if that fits in with your strategy, remember they take time to run up and down the map (and cost fuel).
OK I hope that’s been helpful! Good luck to anyone who reads this guide.